Overcoming what he had previously considered one of his few limitations, the fifth-year pro from Summerville, S.C., caught the heaviest 20-fish total of smallmouth in Bassmaster history — 105 pounds — and won the Minn Kota Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River.
“I used to not be able to catch 17 pounds on this river when 25 pounds a day was still good,” Walters said. “That’s what means the world to me — how bad I truly was at it and to come back and catch (over) 100 pounds of smallmouth and win.
“This one means more than my first Elite win (Lake Fork, 2020). I could not do it without my family — my mom and dad here and my wife back home. My wife’s grandfather passed away during last week’s tournament at Lake Champlain. I felt like he was with me throughout this week.”
Along with the $100,000 top prize, Walters received an automatic berth into the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota scheduled for Tulsa, Okla., in March. He also received his third Bassmaster century belt, which recognizes a 20-bass total of 100 pounds or more.
Turning in daily weights of 24-14, 27-3, 28-5 — Day 3’s heaviest bag — and 24-10, Walters edged Canadian superstar Chris Johnston by 1-4.
Walters earned his first Century Club belt in his 2020 victory at Lake Fork and added another one the following year with a second-place finish at Fork. With this week’s performance, Walters became the first angler in Bassmaster history to break the 100-pound mark with largemouth and smallmouth bass.
Walters had identified key areas in Canadian waters, about an hour from the river mouth. But when Day 1 brought strong southerly winds and extremely rough water, he decided to fish the St. Lawrence River. Doing so allowed his main area to rest, and the fish proved very dependable when he returned.
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